5 Ways to Not Suck as a Washateria Patron

Whether you call them washaterias, laundromats, or coin-op laundries …. No one enjoys patronizing such an establishment. Nothing makes affable people mean and nasty faster than an 90 degree room filled with coin-operated clothing cleaning machines. If it’s not the effort of having hauled your dirties from your home to your car to the washateria that breaks your will to live, it’s the back-breaking labor of loading and unloading machines.

If it’s not the back-breaking labor of loading and unloading machines that kills your spirit, it’s the horde of screaming urchins running into you and your push-cart hard enough to knock you off your feet. (Trust me when I tell you that 50 lbs at top-speed hits pretty hard at the back of your knees.)

Known as laundromats in other parts of the country, washaterias are typically dingy, dark, hot caverns filled with too much humidity and huge metal monsters that threaten to eat your entire bank account in the quarters they require to do the business you came for. At any given time, a random number of the metal monsters will be inoperable, and you should consider it a lucky day if you find out one is dead before you feed it the quarters and chemicals it requires.

The better washaterias actually have aisles between the rows of machines that allow two people with pushcarts to pass each other and multi-load capacity side-loading washers. The best ones have air conditioning that keep the temperature and humidity below 80. The joy that finding these three things in the same washateria invokes is absurd.

Which level of Washateria Hell a patron experiences is always subjective, but anywhere from 10% to 80% of the Hell of any given visit is directly related to other patrons. Here are 5 Ways to Not Suck as a Washateria Patron:

5. Know that clothes on the floor in front of (or on top of) a washer means that washer is spoken for.

Washaterias are such a pain that no one shows up with one or two loads to wash. The common minimum number of loads to make the trip worth it (or no longer delayable) seems to be 5. No one can bring 5 loads of dirties, chemicals, hangers, and other sundries into a washateria in one trip. As a result, we bring them in two bags at a time, and we drop those bags in front of (side-load) or on top of (top-load) washers that are available.

It might take as long as 15 minutes to unload a vehicle depending upon the amount of stuff to bring in, how far away the vehicle is parked, presence of child/ren, etc. Nothing inflames the inner psychopath more than finally finishing unloading a vehicle only to find that one or more of the washers claimed has been usurped while still trying to unload the vehicle.

Don’t do this. Not only is is a seriously jackass move, it’s a stupid one. Trust me, the person whose load you usurped is going to be watching to see who you are when your clothes finish. You’ll be lucky if all that person does is speak strongly to you instead of, say, emptying a bottle of chlorine bleach into your load.

4. Understand that pushcarts are for transporting clothes from one stop to another.

Washateria pushcarts are intended to move clothes. From vehicle to washer, from washer to dryer, from dryer to folding table. They are not intended to hold other items or people in between these steps. Put your other stuff on top of a side-load washer, under your chair, on the floor beside you, on a counter, or back in the car.

No washateria, ever, has actually had enough pushcarts for their busy times. Don’t claim one as your own for the duration of your visit by putting your chemicals, backpack, purse, laundry baskets/bags, book, snacks, toys, drinks, baby carrier, and/or toddler in it. Nothing makes a washateria patron stabby faster than having to do yet more backbreaking labor FOR NO GOOD REASON simply because you’re selfishly/thoughtlessly hogging a pushcart to hold your stuff instead of freeing it for the transportation of clothes, as intended.

3. Remember that eating food is fine, but that eating hot food is not fine.

I get it, wrangling laundry is labor-intensive and takes hours and hours. Hell, I block 4 hours for it, regardless of the number of loads. Beginning with gathering, continuing to sorting and packing, loading the car, driving, unloading the car, washing, drying, folding, packing, loading the car, driving, unloading the car, and finishing with putting it all away never seems to take less than that for me.

Lots of people really need to eat something during such a long stretch of time, sure. Go ahead, pack a lunch or stop for take-out on the way. Just do everyone a favor and make it cold food. If it’s hot food, it has a smell, and it’s a smell that fills the the humidified room of a washateria faster and more thoroughly than you’d think.

Regardless of whether or not it’s a burger, noodles, hoagie, or seafood, if it’s hot, it’s going to smell strongly, clash with the chemical smells in the washateria, and drive your washateria-mates into a frenzy of either hunger or disgusted nausea. You’re never going to please a room full of people with the smell of ANY hot food, so play this one safe.

If you think you’re going to need to eat, bring/buy cold food. No one can smell cold food more than two feet away, and that means they can move if it bothers them. Otherwise, people are going to be shooting you dirty looks until they can’t smell it anymore, and you’re not going to have any idea what you did wrong.

2. Remain in the washateria while your clothes are processing.

Washateria etiquette indicates that stopped loads can be removed by washateria staff or other patrons. Most people accept this, but some do not. The standard etiquette involves placing the completed clothes on top of the washer/dryer from which they were removed or the nearest folding table if the top of the machine cannot be reached because of height or is dirty.

There are just enough sane people out there who will flip their lid and turn into raving lunatics or, more insidiously, quietly retaliate with a completely non-proportionate action that many of us (me included) always hesitate to actually follow standard washateria etiquette. We’ll stress and fidget, becoming more irate by the minute at the full but cycle-completed machine, yet afraid of the rare crazy who will retaliate with either chlorine bleaching our load or beating us up in the parking lot.

I once knew a guy at work who retaliated against someone who touched his clothes at a washateria by stealing the other guy’s entire load, then tossing it out of his moving car piece by piece along 10 miles of highway. This guy was usually sane, but he kept saying over and over, “Motherf*cker shouldn’t’ve touched my clothes! Motherf*cker shouldn’t’ve touched my CLOTHES, man!”

I’m not trying to scare you into hovering over your machines like a moth around a porch light. I am trying to say that you should both protect yourself and show common courtesy by staying at the washateria while your clothes are processing. Keep an eye on the washer/s and dryer/s you’re using. You’re only renting them for the time it takes to complete the cycle, not a random amount of down time while others stand around with their dirties and a snarl. When your machine stops, remove your clothes. Doing so prevents the invocation of standard washateria etiquette, and thereby prevents nutbag retaliation.

1. Manage your child/ren

I know that some people find it difficult to believe, but a washateria is not the yard of a home where children can run about unsupervised. A washateria is Hell enough without urchins running around screaming and climbing on pushcarts and tables, or sitting there bawling at the tops of their lungs, all completely ignored by a parent.

Yes, I know you have work to do. (The same work I’m here for, in fact.) Yes, I know babysitters are expensive and not always available. Yes, I know you’ve probably learned to tune the sounds of your precious lovelies right out, so you don’t even actually notice that one is dragging the other around by her hair and the baby is ready to have a stroke from the constant screaming. Yes, I know that taking your child/ren to the washateria is a special level of Hell … Mainly because we’re all in that hell with you when you don’t manage your brood!

The thing is, and read this carefully: We aren’t able to tune-out/ignore your children like you do, so this particular brand of washateria Hell is a thousand times worse on us than it is on you.

I know it seems too much to ask for you to control your running and screaming children, but we’re asking you to try. It won’t kill you to bring a bottle and a diaper for the baby. A toy for each of the older kids would work miracles. Trying to keep them corralled in the empty corner, out from under foot, would be an unequalled kindness in the history of man. If the baby WON’T stop screaming, please take a break from the laundry to change him, feed him, burp him, rock him to sleep … Whatever it is he needs.

Unmanaged child/ren add/s a new level to washateria hell. Don’t be that parent.

What are YOUR suggestions on how to not suck as a washateria patron?


Middle-aged, life-long Texan with a substantial chip on her shoulder.

Posted in culture, Etiquette

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